University of Edinburgh

Deaf Children are not Hearing Children who can't Hear: on Language, Cognition and Learning
and Educating Deaf Students: Is Reading Really the Problem?

Presented on Wednesday 5 November 2008


This day consisted of two separate lectures from Prof Marc Marschark:

Deaf Children are not Hearing Children who can't Hear: on Language, Cognition, and Learning
Traditionally, language and educational placement for deaf children have been tightly intertwined (if not confused). Only recently have we also begun to pay attention to the cognitive foundations of learning by deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, how they might be related to language, and how these might differ from hearing peers. We are now on a threshold with regard to deaf education, a point at which we really are beginning to understand relations among language, information processing, cognitive development, and academic achievement (and how these might be affected by early intervention and cochlear implants among other factors). Convergent evidence from a variety of investigations and pedagogical interventions provide new insights that can serve as important guideposts for research, teaching, and the provision of support services for children who are deaf. This presentation will focus on these interactions, pointing out that because of their different experiences and early environments, deaf students have somewhat different knowledge, knowledge organization, and learning strategies than their hearing peers. As a result, there are likely to learn in different ways. Similarly, recent evidence suggests that deaf students understand less (or perhaps differently?) from signed, spoken, and printed materials than we and they generally believe. In addition to helping us understand and accommodate the needs of deaf students, such findings are informative with regard to the cumulative interaction of language, learning, and experience in human cognition.

Educating Deaf Students: Is Reading Really the Problem?
Over the past 30 years, deaf education has seen a massive shift in academic placement for deaf children. In the United States, approximately 85% of all American deaf students now are educated in local public schools, and almost half spend their full school day in a mainstream classroom. To-date, however, there has been relatively little information available about how we can optimize deaf students' performance in public school classrooms, and there is only limited (surprising) evidence concerning who succeeds there and why. This presentation describes a long-term investigation aimed at understanding and supporting academic achievement of deaf students in various educational environments.  What began as an attempt to better match students with sign language interpreters in order to facilitate communication ended up someplace completely different. Along the way, we explored the use of real-time text in the classroom and on television, examined student performance with instructors who varied in their teaching methods, hearing status, and communication modalities, and returned to the issue of why so many deaf kids can't read. Apparently, we have arrived at a point where we have answers to questions we never dreamed of asking. These results and findings by others provide new information concerning raising and educating deaf children while clearly charting directions for future educational policy, pedagogy, and investigation.

Target Audience: all those interested in the education of deaf young people

Presenter: Professor Marc Marschark, Center for Education Research Partnerships, National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Rochester Institute of Technology, School of Psychology University of Aberdeen & Moray House School of Education, Edinburgh University


10.20 am Introduction Eileen Burns

10.30 am Lecture 1: Deaf Children are not Hearing Children who can't Hear: on Language, Cognition, and Learning


1.30 pm Lecture 2: Educating Deaf Students: is reading really the problem?


3.30 pm Course Evaluation and Close